In the season opener over Presbyterian, this Wake Forest team was able to put away an early threat against the Blue Hose thanks to a stifling defensive effort and a few solid plays by the offense. The Demon Deacon defense was incredible, allowing only two first downs, the fewest a Wake Forest defense has given up since 1944 and forcing six turnovers. While this was in large part due to the talent discrepancy between Wake's D and the Presbyterian offense, the defense recovered nicely from giving up a 66-yard run on the Blue Hose's first play from scrimmage and gives Wake fans a lot to be enthusiastic about. It's always good to start off the season with a big victory where the other team doesn't get to put much on the board.
I wast most impressed by the performance of the linebacking corps in general. Mike Olson was great, recording seven tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception while Brandon Chubb contributed seven tackles and an interception of his own. These guys were consistently in the backfield and didn't give Presbyterian much time to operate. However even when quarterback Tamyn Garrick did get the chance to look upfield, the secondary led by KJ and Bud did a great job of breaking passes up and making quick tackles to shut down any big gains. Presbyterian only threw for 49 yards and didn't record even a single first down through the air.
This was a dominant performance by the secondary and the defense at large. The only play which got away from the D, the 66-yard gain, appeared to be a broken contain off of a blitz where there was no corner present on the side the ball went to. These are unfortunate occurrences, and don't get me wrong preventing big gains is a huge ability for a defense to possess, but it only happened once and the unit showed resolve for the remainder of the game.
The really good performance on defense was perhaps overshadowed by the poor job by the offense, but the defense deserves to be recognized for what was a truly dominant effort. Now, moving on to the bigger issue in my opinion - the performance of the offense. While it really shouldn't be a surprise at this point and while I know I pointed it out in the preseason thread, the offensive line's performance was weak and the offensive package in general raises a lot of questions.
The biggest, and perhaps most surprising, stat is that the offense was only able to gain 3.5 yards a rush. The team ran the ball a whopping 54 times and only gained 189 yards. How does this happen? Presbyterian was 118 out of 121 FCS schools in rushing defense last year. That's right, they were the fourth worst team in the lower division of college football just a year ago and yet we were only able to gain 3.5 yards a carry against them in the opener. Last season they gave up 6.3 yards a carry.
I think the answer to the problem about the offense is rather obvious though: play calling. Tanner Price played a variation of the option offense in college, but he has shown himself over his three years at Wake to be more comfortable while stepping into the pocket and throwing the football. The games in which Wake has succeeded over the last two seasons have been those in which Tanner has been able to step back and pick apart the defense. I realize the shift to the option style offense is an effort to improve the offensive line and give the offense more time, but the style of option that we chose doesn't help showcase any of Tanner's talents. The one play that sticks out in my mind the most is where Tanner was running to the left side and basically ran the pitch man out of bounds while stopping and then reversing field. It worked against Presbyterian and he was able to gain a few yards, but can you imagine what will happen against teams like Clemson, Florida State, or Miami if the QB loses his pitch man because he holds on to the ball too long and then tries to reverse field? Price would get hit harder than he ever did while being sacked due to a pocket collapse.
I think if Wake is going to get the most out of their offensive talent this year then the play calling needs to be more oriented on shorter pass plays where Tanner gets rid of the ball fast. Camp is a perfect first target to do this and can help counter the number of men the defense stacks in the box. These quick hitters and bubble screens will serve the same purpose as the option and without the increased exposure for Price outside the tackles. The option run can be used as well but on a slightly more limited basis.
Another thing that bothered me from the game was the guy in motion on every single play. I think this completely undermines what the offense is trying to achieve. The goal appears to be to keep the defense constantly off guard where the D will have no idea where the ball is going, so how does running a guy in motion every single play help reach this goal? With more limited use of the motion, he becomes more of a threat as the defense focuses in on him when he starts moving across the backfield.
Lobo, per usual, has thrown in a new wrinkle to the offense and then fallen in love with it. He will learn to use it with moderation soon, hopefully, but he does this with each new thing he adds. For a few games over the past couple years he has gone pass heavy while not mixing in much run, against Clemson a few years ago he added the wildcat but then used it three times in a row while we were stuffed at the one yard line. These types of innovations are what helped us in 2006 with the misdirection and bubble screens, but that was because it was utilized with precision and executed well. Lobo needs to learn to adapt mid-game as well as mid-season to avoid become so predictable.
With last week's game in the books, the Deacs turn their attention to Friday night when they take on Boston College in #therivalry. This will be the first conference game of the year for Wake and despite being an early season game is a very important matchup. If Wake can snag a win in Chestnut Hill, they need only four more wins to make a bowl and are off to a hot 2-0 start with two non-conference matchups in a row. With a loss the Deacs will be at .500 just two games into the year and will be fighting an uphill battle all year long.
I caught a decent amount of the Boston College-Villanova game and I think BC acquitted themselves pretty well in the first game under new coach Steve Addazio. Furthermore it seems that BC fans are pretty excited about the coach and will almost certainly flock to this game which is to be televised nationally on ESPN2. Wake will be up for a real test at the end of the week and I hope we rock the all-white jerseys with newly outfitted white helmets. This would be a classy way to introduce the 2013 team to the national audience.
Villanova provided a far greater challenge to BC than Presbyterian did to Wake and Nova is ranked in the top five in the lower division. The 24-14 win for the Eagles did include a second half comeback but Rettig showed composure at QB and Andre Williams had a great effort on the ground to make sure BC came out 1-0. I think the key to this game is going to be shutting down the play action pass which Addazio will look to set up by pounding Williams up the middle early in the game. I think both teams will struggle to move the ball and the game may be dubbed an "ugly game" but I think both defenses will deserve credit for keeping the opposing teams at bay.
My prediction for this one is Wake coming out on top 21-17. I think Wake will strike early and take a 10-0 lead or so and never really trail. In typical Wake fashion I imagine that there will be some scary moments, but I truly do think Wake is better than BC. BC is improved this year, but they are just one game removed from last year's 2-10 record and Wake took care of business against last year's team. KJ and/or Bud will be tasked with shutting down receiver Alex Amidon who can light up secondaries, but I think both will be up to the challenge.
I will say that this game should be a close one and that mistakes (i.e. turnovers and penalties) will make a huge difference in who comes out on top. Wake turned the ball over twice last week, including one comical mishap on an attempted spike, but forced six turnovers against the hapless Presbyterian offense. Wake's defense needs to come out ballhawking and both sides need to avoid dumb penalties.
If Wake plays like I believe they can, I think it could be a two touchdown win for the Deacs but I will settle for any sort of win we can get. 2-0 is 2-0, no matter how you get there.
If there are any questions or concerns please let me know in the comments and let me know what you guys think. As always, go Deacs!